Does kindness belong in the workplace? As a wife, mother, and entrepreneur, I not only believe that it does but I also have come to learn it’s a key quality for building a thriving team and becoming a successful leader.
Through both my personal life and professional role as a Chicago business leader, I’m committed to making our city and world a better place. Many of my greatest joys come from mentoring and guiding others, particularly other women who are evolving in their careers. Life is often messy, and I’ve found that it is less about what road you’re on and more about how you travel it and who you meet along the way. From these experiences, I have developed a value system that guides my path, as well as the path of those I mentor every day.
Since I graduated college nearly (gulp!) 23 years ago, I have learned so much about who I wanted to be through the example of others. I observe each new connection with great curiosity and tuck away qualities I admire or admonish against to call upon as I continue to evolve. After some of my own unpleasant childhood experiences with people who I’d describe as bullies, my mantra has been to “always lead with kindness.” I have never regretted being kind to others, and I’ve found that, no matter what the circumstance might be, everything seems to work itself out. Also, I have never apologized for being my authentic self—truly owning who I am and showing enthusiasm for the causes and clients I care about. Last, I appreciate people who keep their word and who “do what they say and say what they do.” That’s not always common practice these days.
Be Kind, Be Passionate: When I started my own company 15 years ago, I consciously chose to collaborate only with kind people representing brands with inspiring stories. At the end of the day, we’re all just human beings who have our jobs to do, but it is actually possible to use our work experiences to positively impact the lives of others. To leave my little ones at home to help earn a living for my growing family meant I would insist upon being truly passionate about going to work (even if the commute was down the stairs to my basement). I found that, by holding firm to my values, I was even more successful than in my previous big agency job.
The Hustle: Now, a little about hustle. I have observed that the more senior or “important” people become in their career, the less they believe they should have to do the smaller, mundane tasks that got them to their current position. I don’t think you should ever believe you are “above” a task. In fact, I often joke that I clean the toilets, sell the toilets, and I happen to own the toilet company. Often there is no glamour in the daily to–dos, but you should hustle and do them all the same. I also subscribe to the mantra of “don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” I admire people who move quickly and efficiently to get it done—and done well—and then move on to the next assignment without complaint.
Be kind and passionate and show hustle—there’s a reason these three qualities make up half of the six foundational values of my firm and reflect the people that work there. You have only one life, so make the most of it. Next month, we’ll talk about my three other core values and why Creativity, Smarts, and Authenticity will help you succeed.
Kathleen Henson is a wife, mother of five, and the founder and CEO of Henson Consulting, an award-winning national PR firm based in Chicago that employs 39 women and one very brave man. Her company just was named among 75 companies on Entrepreneur Magazine’s list of top company cultures nationwide.